Take Him As You Find Him

By Julie Rhodes

Have you taken Jesus as you find him today?

The Christmas season swells with anticipation of a Big Day. It’s a grand-finale season, as steady marching-towards-a-climax season, a season of build-up. It has culmination — a baby wrapped in light — and I think culmination is something we   love because it means there’s a plot to things, an ending, like someone is in charge somewhere with a clipboard.

But life mostly feels un-culminated, like the boring parts of a novel. Like today, maybe.

Speaking of novels, the great novelist Leo Tolstoy wrote a short story entitled “Where Love Is, God Is,” which depicts the epitome of daily ordinariness. The story is about a humble cobbler who believes he’s heard that God will visit him the following day. The morning passes, and the cobbler is waiting for God to knock on his door, when he sees a friend outside shoveling snow. He invites him in for a warm drink. Later, through his tiny window, he observes a woman and her baby out in the street who are poorly dressed for the weather. He invites them in, gives them clothes, food and money. Later, he sees a boy try to steal money from an older lady. He intervenes and extends love and compassion to both. But God, as the cobbler expects him, never shows up. 

You can see where I’m headed with this. 

Today, likely, that long-term problem in your life will not be solved. Likely, today, you will not get that phone call that will validate all these years of waiting, or working, or wondering. Today, Jesus is probably outside your window wearing overalls, and he doesn’t have an answer for you. Yet. Will you take him as you find him?

I think we need to remember what the first Christmas really required of the people involved, because it surely didn’t feel like a culmination either. The first Christmas required everybody to accept mystery, to take God as they found him, not as they expected him to be. Mary delivers a son into the world — God? This baby, wailing from my body? And Joseph, leaning over, soothing the crying of his wife and son — this is God? And the shepherds in the field thunderstruck by the glory of angels descend on a cold manger scene they didn’t know was The Manger Scene, thinking — this is God? Lowlier than the very angels singing him down?

Christmas morning hasn’t always felt like a culmination or an answer. It was a cold, holy mystery. God on God’s terms. We accept the Baby Wrapped in Light so easily now, but do we accept the baby swaddled in dirty linen, the weird and mysterious ways God wants to bear himself out in our own lives today? How has God come incarnate to you today — in glory and revelation, or in the face of an elderly dad whose mind is far away? 

When I look around at the confusing, exhausting, mysterious people in my life, my first order of business should be to ask if God is inviting me to take him as is, embodied in those people. Even if that person is me, staring back at myself in a mirror. In Matthew 25, Jesus seems to suggest that he comes as these people on purpose — inconvenient, hard-to-recognize, confusing. But those who love him and know him, give him food when he is hungry, water when he is thirsty, and clothes when he is cold.

It’s hard to receive the given circumstances and people in our life as incarnations of Christ himself. To allow them to be what they are — and ultimately, really, to accept God as he is and how he wants to dwell with us as Emmanuel today. Maybe there’s a manger and a baby we never anticipated, but are invited to embrace. And maybe it looks like getting a cup of water for a child who’s been sick all night or being gentle with our own frenzied, bruised and tired selves.

O come, O come, little baby.  Ready us to take you as you are. Not tomorrow. Not on Christmas day, but on this holy day, this boring day.

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